Why making a Will is so important

Making a Will
An estimated two thirds of adults in the UK have not made a Will.[1] Without a Will, property passes according to the rules of intestacy, contained primarily in the Administration of Estates Act 1925 as amended.

Distribution under intestacy is made according to a hierarchical list, starting with the spouse (including same sex married couples and civil partners) and close family members, moving through more distant relatives and ending with the Crown.

However, the rules are ‘a blunt instrument that will not work for many people’.[2] First, they do not benefit even long-term cohabitees, one of the fastest growing family types.[3] Draft legislation[4] was considered to rectify this in 2011 but did not proceed past the second reading.[5] Lagging behind other jurisdictions[6], English law continues to view cohabitation as ‘fundamentally different to that of a married or civil partnership couple’.[7]

Second, intestacy rules are unlikely to produce a desirable result for some of the more complex family structures that exist today.[8]

Making a Will gives you the ability to say where your property goes. It also allows you to plan your affairs to minimise the amount of inheritance tax that will be due on your estate. Further, you can use trusts within your Will to protect your assets from care fees and ensure they are preserved for your children and grandchildren. Finally, where you have minor children, you can nominate guardians and create trusts so that they are provided for financially, until they can manage their own finances. Get in touch to see how we can help.

Sources:

[1] Steve Brooker, ‘Finding the will: a report on will-writing behaviour in England and Wales’ (National Consumer Council, 2007) 3; ‘31 million UK adults at risk of dying without a Will’ (Unbiased, 1 October 2017); Law Commission ‘Making a Will; (Consultation Paper 231, 2017) para 1.1.

[2] Law Commission ‘Making a Will’ (Consultation Paper 231, 2017) para 1.1.

[3] ‘Families and Households: 2017’ (Office for National Statistics, 8 November 2017).

[4] Inheritance (Cohabitants) Bill (HL Bill 5).

[5] Parliament UK, ‘Inheritance (Cohabitants) Bill [HL] 2012-13’; ‘Government rejects inheritance reform for cohabiting couples’ (Stowe Family Law, June 13 2014).

[6] Marialuisa Taddia, ‘Cohabitation’ (Law Society Gazette, 14 January 2019) LS Gaz, 14 Jan, 18

[7] Burden v United Kingdom (13378/05) [2008] S.T.C. 1305 at [65]

[8] Families and Households: 2017’ (n 6); Lehna Hewitt and Camilla Fusco, ‘Step-parents: family or legal strangers?’ (New Law Journal, 31 January 2014); ‘Marriages in England and Wales: 2015’ (Office for National Statistics).

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